Gone are the days when just a title card — “This film is dedicated to…” — would do the tribute trick. For Bollywood has been seriously bitten by the tribute virus. Everyone everywhere is busy paying tribute to someone or something or something by someone. When an entire movie is not being remade — Don to Sholay — everything from in-jokes to character names to situations are being used to salute a film or an actor or a maker.
The two big Friday releases, Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, have T R I B U T E written all over them. Om Shanti Om is Shah Rukh Khan’s tribute to the 1970s, to Rishi Kapoor, to Subhash Ghai and, most importantly, to Karz.
The choice of the backdrop for OSO sets things up for director Farah Khan, who had started off with another tribute movie Main Hoon Na. She has Deepika Padukone as a leading star of the ’70s while Shah Rukh is a junior actor. As Deepika admits, “I was made to see videos of Hema Maliniji, Madhubalaji to get my body language right.” She is called Shantipriya (remember all those south Indian heroines with names ending in ‘priya)’ while her big release in the movie is called Dreamy Girl. It can’t get closer to Hema Dream Girl Malini.
That, of course, is the starting point. Through computer graphics, Deepika is shown dancing with Bollywood’s leading men of that era, like Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra. Farah’s husband Shirish Kunder tried a similar thing last Diwali in Jaan-e-Mann when the opening black-and-white dream sequence had Salman attending an awards event sitting alongside all the stars and superstars of the bygone era.
Then, of course, Karz plays a big role in the film and how the first Om dies and the next Om is born has a lot to do with the Rishi Kapoor superhit. Shah Rukh, in fact, said in an interview that the theme tune of Ghai’s Karz was the reason he produced Om Shanti Om and he also joked on Koffee With Karan that if Himesh’s Karz remake was ready before the OSO release, they would have been out of business.
If one Diwali trailblazer is high on the tribute factor, the other one is not far behind either. Poor Ranbir had to drop his towel in the Jab se tere naina song, because Sanjay Leela Bhansali wanted to pay a tribute to the debutant’s father Rishi Kapoor, who had dropped the towel in Bobby.
There’s a tribute to Raj Kapoor too, what with Ranbir and Sonam striking the famous RK logo pose of Raj and Nargis in Barsaat. Ranbir’s name in the film is Raj and if you want to push the name game further, Shail Hada sang Saawariya for Ranbir while Shailendra (Singh) sang for Rishi in Bobby.
Tributes often take on a more personal note. Like the plethora of in-jokes in Anurag Kashyap’s just-released No Smoking. John’s character is called K, which is Anurag’s tribute to (Franz) Kafka and (Charlie) Kauffman. John’s friend, played by Ranvir Shorey, is called Abbas Tyrewala, who in real life is a scriptwriter and Anurag’s friend. He has written the scripts of Maqbool and Main Hoon Naa and there’s a dialogue in the film where Ranvir’s Abbas says on the phone: “Maqbool, main hoon naa!” If that wasn’t enough, in an important bar scene there’s the line “Pakhi pakhi re” from Dil Se’s Ae ajnabi song playing in the background — Abbas’s wife’s name is Pakhi!
Another recent release replete with tributes is Johnny Gaddaar, which uses Vijay Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam and the early Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Parwana as effective plot points. “Whenever I think of thrillers, I think of Vijay Anand,” says director Sriram Raghavan. “I have got miles to go before I can even be compared to him but I wanted to dedicate my film to him in my own way.”
This tribute treat will not end with the Diwali crackers this Friday. Up next is Sudhir Mishra’s Khoya Khoya Chand, a personal tribute to the Indian film industry of the 1950s. “It’s not directly about a person but just like in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi you can understand who is who by just watching their appearance or action.”
Direct or indirect, vague or valid, the tribute game, mastered by makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez in the west, has just begun by the Arabian Sea and everyone’s invited to spot the dedication.
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